North Korea denounces US over human rights criticism

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's state-run media on Friday denounced the United States for raising the issue of the North's dismal human rights record ahead of crucial talks between the countries to resolve the nuclear standoff.

The comments published on North Korea's government-run Uriminzokkiri website came hours before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang for talks aimed at hammering out details on denuclearizing the North.

The website said Washington should stop provoking the North with an "anachronistic human rights racket" at a time of diplomatic attempts to improve ties.

Uriminzokkiri specifically raised issue with a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives in June that called for the "complete, verifiable, and irreversible human rights improvements" to be part of U.S. strategies for denuclearizing the North.

The website also criticized the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, which included North Korea among the tier 3 countries with the worst standards in human trafficking.

Authoritarian North Korea is sensitive to outside criticism about its human rights record because it sees them as insults to its supreme leadership.

"When you are calling for deep talks to establish new relations (between North Korea and the United States) and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula but at the same time denying the dignity and legitimacy of your counterpart, that's like trying to move forward with your feet tied together," the website said.

North Korea has been accused by outsiders for extensive crimes against humanity, with the government using extreme surveillance, coercion and punishment to prevent dissent.

As much as 120,000 people are believed to be held at the country's massive prison camps where inmates accused of political crimes, such as criticizing the government or attempting to escape to South Korea.

Human rights groups say inmates are subject to horrific conditions, including forced labor, torture and rape, and are often executed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has also shown a brutal side while consolidating his power, purging and executing a slew of senior government officials for slighting his leadership.

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